Herman Cain ended his campaign for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, blaming media attention to allegations of improper sexual conduct.
“I am suspending my presidential campaign,” the 65-year-old former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza Inc. said yesterday at campaign headquarters in Atlanta. While maintaining innocence, Cain said he made “mistakes in my life.”
“As false accusations continued, they have sidetracked and distracted my ability to present solutions to the American people,” said Cain.
Cain led some surveys in October, slipping to third place in a Nov. 22 national poll released by Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich rose to take the lead. Cain returned home to Atlanta Dec. 2 for his first face-to-face talk with his wife since the accusation of an extramarital affair surfaced Nov. 28.
“I am at peace with my God,” he said. “I am at peace with my wife, and she is at peace with me. And I am at peace with my family and I am at peace with myself.”
Cain’s exit narrows a Republican nominating contest that has seen various contenders rise in national polls and, in most cases, quickly fade. Gingrich, of Georgia, has had the most recent surge of support. Bloomberg News polls show he attracts more support from Cain’s backers in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire than any other candidate.
Cain’s departure may hinder former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by eliminating a competitor for the backing of social conservatives who regard him as too moderate on issues such as abortion.
“The main beneficiary is the individual looking like the conservative challenger to Romney, and that’s Gingrich,” said Republican strategist Greg Mueller, who is unaffiliated in the nomination race. “What Romney wants is as many people in the field as possible to diminish any kind of conservative challenger surge, which is what we’re seeing now. The more conservatives go as a majority to a candidate, the more of a problem it is for Romney.”
Cain said he planned to endorse another candidate, and vowed to remain a part of public life.
Cain’s Plan B
“I am not going to be silenced and I’m not going away.” Running for president had been “Plan A,” he said. “Plan B” will be to “continue to be a voice for the people.”
Gingrich issued a statement yesterday saying Cain “will continue to be a powerful voice in the conservative movement for years to come.” Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who is also seeking the Republican nomination, said Cain “offered a unique and valuable voice to the debate over how to reform our country’s uncompetitive tax code and turn around the economy.”
Cain, with roots as a minister, radio host and food-company executive, built his bid around his personality -- he trademarked the phrase “The Hermanator Experience” -- and policy proposals such as his “9-9-9” tax plan. The initiative would have scrapped the current system and replace it with 9 percent business and income taxes and a 9 percent national sales tax.
Republican rivals focused on voters and activists in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Cain traveled, promoting his book “This Is Herman Cain!,” in states that have little initial influence on the nominating race because their contests are later in the process. These included his native Tennessee, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.
Accusations against Cain started to surface in late October from four women who said he harassed them sexually in the 1990s when he was head of the National Restaurant Association. Ginger White, an Atlanta woman, later announced she had had an extramarital affair with Cain for more than 13 years.
White, who acknowledged having financial difficulties, said she had accepted gifts of money from Cain, adding, “This was not sex for cash.”